Broadband providers delivering advertised speeds, says FCC

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The Federal Communications Commission has released a report saying that most US broadband providers are delivering speeds close to what they promise.

During peak hours, it says, DSL-based service providers deliver 82 percent of what's promised and cable providers 93 percent. Fiber-based providers are actually delivering 114 percent of their promised speeds.

Upload speeds were 95 percent, 108 percent and 112 percent respectively.

It's a big improvement over the situation just two years ago, when the FCC said that most consumers were only receiving half the advertised speed.

The report's been welcomed by service providers, who must feel somewhat vindicated.

"These results, based on data from monitoring equipment installed in consumer homes and in ISP networks, debunk the conventional mythology that ISPs are delivering far less than the speeds they advertise," says AT&T senior vice president for federal regulatory affairs Bob Quinn.

"The results are in, and it’s clear that consumers are getting high-quality broadband services from their ISPs.  Perhaps now we can get past the rhetoric about advertised vs. actual speeds and focus on the important task of ensuring all Americans have access to these broadband services."

But Nick Feamster, associate professor in the School of Computer Science at Georgia Tech, says he's evaluated the FCC data, and warns that speed is by no means the only factor when evaluating broadband performance.

"We found that performance of US ISPs more consistently matches their advertised promises than the ISPs in other countries — they do a pretty good job," he says.

"But at the same time, those advertisements are based on performance metrics that don't tell the full story about how users' applications will actually perform. Throughput might have been the dominant metric when the debate was dial-up versus broadband, but it no longer gives the complete picture about application performance."

He suggests that internet services should come with a 'nutrition label', giving information on network performance in terms of latency and other factors as well as sinmple throughput.